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Healthcare Commission

Lord Peyton of Yeovil asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): For 2004–05, its first full year of operation, we expect the Healthcare Commission to operate at a cost to the Department of Health of £63 million. It also anticipates receipt of £4.1 million in fees from the independent sector.
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All Healthcare Commission assessments are by National Health Service organisations rather than individual practitioners, although visits are sometimes focused on individual practices. On 29 November, the commission launched Assessment for Improvement, a consultation on its future approach to assessment. This makes it clear that the commission will assess the cost of its activities, including the cost for healthcare organisations, to demonstrate its added value.

Defra: Advisers

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): Three.

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: The department is unable to speculate why details of expenditure on professional advisers and private sector consultants are not held centrally by Defra in comparison to other government departments.

The department holds details of all its contractors sufficient and necessary to discharge its payment obligations under the terms of contracts agreed with those contractors. This enables the department to report annually to Parliament on its prompt payment performance. The department also has systems that enable it to report annually its value for money achievements with regard to departmental expenditure on goods, services and works. Its financial, accounting and budgeting systems are subject to annual review by the National Audit Office.

Details of contracts held with professional services providers, of which expenditure on professional advisers and private sector consultants is a part, have not been held centrally to date, but are held within the areas that have been given the delegated budgetary authority and responsibility to let and manage those contracts. The resource costs of extracting information from all those areas is often hugely disproportionate to the nature of the information being sought.

As part of its preparations for, and implementation of, the Gershon value for money agenda in Defra, Pareto or detailed expenditure distribution analysis of departmental expenditure on professional services is now being undertaken, and will be made available publicly in due course.
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Additionally, the department has, as part of its e-procurement strategy, implemented an e-contracts database which has been live and available for use since 1 April 2004. The database is being populated as it is being rolled-out across Defra and from the end of March 2005, all contracts entered into by Defra from that position time will be recorded on it.

Rural Payments Agency

Lord Jopling asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: On 1 December 2004 there were 3,699 people employed in the Rural Payments Agency. Of these, 308 staff have a qualification in agriculture or related sciences, including soil sciences.
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Prison and Probation Services

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Her Majesty's Government continue to support the work of the voluntary sector as a partner organisation with the disbursement of funds through the prison and probation services. There has been over £60 million a year invested since 2000 with this year's total being just short of £70 million. This has helped to create a voluntary sector that plays a crucial role alongside the private and public sectors in delivering high quality cost-effective services to offenders.

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